In fact it continues to make an impression all the way across the country as one of the top junior college defensive backs on the West Coast has scheduled an official visit for this week to see the Tigers face Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Speedy 5-10, 183 Eric Russell from Cerritos Junior College is due in for the Thanksgiving festivities for his visit and he says he couldn't be more excited after Auburn caught his eye several years back.
"That's when I really started looking at Auburn," Russell tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I wanted to play running back so I was looking at Auburn because they had two running backs drafted high. From then on I liked the SEC because there was so much competition. I'm all about competition. I like the SEC.
"I was interested in Auburn, but I didn't plan on them calling me or even hearing from them," he adds. "When my defensive coordinator at Cerritos told me Auburn wanted to come and see me. He told me that and I got very excited. I'm very interested in them."
Auburn's immediate needs in the defensive backfield made the junior college route a necessary option for this class and that meant scouring the leagues in Mississippi, Kansas and California. In that process the Tigers found a bonafide prospect in Russell just a short time ago and since that time the relationship has been on the fast track.
"It was a couple of weeks ago," Russell says. "My coach told me that Auburn wanted to talk to me. I was interested in Auburn already so that was good. Coach Phillip Lolley, I talked to him. He just told me how he was interested in me. He told me he heard about me from the Mt. Sac coaches. He said it's good to hear from my coaches, but when said it was another thing to hear about me from rival coaches. We had a good conversation."
At the time the Tigers were interested, but Russell says he didn't know about taking a visit because his team was still playing. Once that came to an end though, things heated up quickly.
"We were in the playoffs, but we lost our first round game," Russell says. "Coach Lolley called me and said he heard we lost. He wanted to know how I felt about taking a trip down to see the campus. I told him that I wanted to do that."
The visit to Auburn will be the first trip to the South for Russell who says it's really his first time away from the West Coast period.
"I've never really been out of California," he notes. "It should be a great experience for me."
Being recruited by several schools in addition to Auburn, including Washington, Arizona and BYU, Russell says he hasn't received any offers yet because he's still sending his transcripts out to several of the schools showing interest. He notes he will more than likely be a May graduate and won't be able to go through spring practice.
With holes at both the safety and cornerback positions, Russell is the type of player who could help at a number of different spots for the Tigers if he winds up on the Plains. He notes that he prefers the safety position because it allows him to roam and make plays with his speed, but he'll play anywhere he's needed.
"When I get there I'll talk to Coach Lolley and see what they're thinking about for me," Russell notes. "I think they also want me as a return guy, both kick returns and punt returns. I led the state in kickoff returns."
Using his 4.45 second speed in the 40-yard dash, Russell was a playmaker all over the field for Cerritos as a sophomore in 2009. After earning all-conference honors as a freshman, he had a huge second season with 55 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four tackles for a loss and 12 passes defended.
On the four interceptions Russell totaled 171 return yard including touchdowns of 91 and 65 yards in the same game. He also added 210 yards and a touchdown on eight punt returns and 517 yards on 18 kickoff returns.
As a freshman he was the first-team all conference safety as well as return specialist. As a sophomore he earned the conference all-purpose player of the year without a carry or reception on offense.
Russell says he expects to be in Auburn sometime on Wednesday through Saturday. Getting a chance to experience one of the nation's top rivalries regardless of sport, Russell notes he's getting pumped about his trip.
"I have heard everything about this rivalry, how it's bigger than USC-UCLA," Russell says. "I know it's big for the Auburn-Alabama game. I'm really excited."
Still waiting on an offer, Russell says because of that he's not sure about a timeline for making a decision, but adds that if he gets an offer from the Tigers while on his visit it's something he would think hard about.
"Because it's my first official visit I want to pray about it and talk with my mom," Russell notes. "I've never been anywhere so I want to see how it is, but if I like it I will pull the trigger."